Alaska Travel Diary: A Once-In-A-Lifetime Winter Wonderland Vacation

Greetings to all my fellow adventure lovers and fans of The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground. My name is Jillian Hyland and I am an Oregon resident, hospitality professional and traveling addict with an undying wanderlust for life. I’m taking over the blog for the week to share with you my personal experiences traveling to Alaska, on the tailwind of the notoriously-snowy winter season. Before we go any further you should know one thing; it’s not as hard or overwhelming as you might think! Traveling to Alaska, at any time of the year, is absolutely spectacular and easily accessible via major airline. Once you arrive, the welcoming hospitality and over-the-top adventures will fill your heart with more joy than you’ve ever dreamed imaginable. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience!

I recently had the opportunity to take a few days off from my busy city job to enjoy a little vacation time, and as I sat down to plan my trip I couldn’t stop thinking about Alaska. I wanted to visit someplace new that I’ve never been to before, and the wildly rugged yet miraculously scenic Last Frontier was calling my name.

With a goal to unplug and get off-grid, my heart was leading me to a place that would later help me not only decompress, but also totally and completely help me reset my mind and refresh my soul. The unreal scenery, picturesque views, endless outdoor activities to partake in and the ability to observe magnificent wildlife in their natural environment – that’s what I was looking forward to.

So I did it. I took the (metaphorical) polar plunge. I booked my plane ticket and packed my bags. I set out on a solo mission to experience the majestic beauty of the 49th state, all by my lonesome. Just me, myself and the Last Frontier.

Although I was planning the trip of a lifetime without bringing anyone else along to experience the magic with me, something inside me felt brave and untamed. I was ready for this. As the saying goes, “Alaska or bust!”

From the moment I landed at the airport, I was in awe of the state’s beauty, culture and charm. I arrived in Anchorage, Alaska and made my way down to Alyeska Resort. From the moment I arrived, I was wowed by the stunning facilities.

But once I went to the front desk to check in to my hotel room, the warm and friendly service nearly made my heart explode with happiness. Throughout my stay I received perfect turndown service with yummy chocolates and bottled water each day.

Of course, in true Alaskan fashion, the magic kept on pouring in when I actually entered my hotel room and found this perfect little note. Thank you to Amy for speaking right to me with this sweet caption. Coming to Alaska was me, following my star.

For the next five days, I would turn off my cell phone and focus on being present in the moment. Each morning I would wake up and enjoy a good book and a cup o’ joe while looking out the window at one of the most spectacular winter-wonderland views of my life. I had to *pinch* myself a few times to remind me that this was all real… and not just a dream!

During my stay at the resort I utilized several amenities.  I used the pool/hot tub area, onsite grab & go café and the complimentary shuttle that the staff informed me about at check in. All of these amenities were very useful during my stay. Plus, I felt very fancy in my soft, customized Alyeska Resort robe. What a neat touch!

One of the first restaurants I tried was Seven Glaciers at Alyeska Resort. I took the tram up the mountain and almost lost my mind when I experienced pristine panoramic views that (quite literally) looked like something out of my wildest dream.

Once I got to the top of the mountain, I kicked off my dining experience with a photo-op overlooking the Chugach range. This is what winter wonderland looks like in the movies, but who would have ever thought that I’d experience it in person? Absolutely incredible!

I took a brief tour of the restaurant, posing next to all the coolest attractions (of course). Now this is what I call a wine cellar! Wow!

I tried the famous ‘fizz’ drink before ordering some food. It was a very delicious concoction and the service was top-notch. The million dollar views were effortlessly brag-worthy as well.

Alaska came with a lot of firsts for me. For one, I tried sushi for the first time ever! For some reason, I’ve never taken a keen interest in sushi – but Alaska brought out something brave and ambitious inside of me. The end result? Pretty darn delicious if I do say so myself!

One of my nights in Alaska led me to a concert at The Sitzmark Bar & Grill. I loved this place! It was laid back yet super lively and it had that quintessential locals vibe, with friendly people to spark conversations with all through the evening. I had their famous nachos during the concert, which were fantastic! I loved the intimate feel of the bar and the outdoor patio area as well.

I also attended an outdoor snowboard/ski competition one evening at the base of the mountain. This was so cool because I got to watch a phenomenal event where young kids competed in performing tricks. This was hands-down one of the most memorable evenings during my time in Alaska!

One day I went out with Glacier City Snowmobile Tours for an excursion called the Real Deal Tour. Overall, what I enjoyed most about this trip was the friendliness of the staff and the knowledge that they had about the area. It was truly such a learning experience from start to finish, which was an unexpected yet highly welcomed surprise. I also learned that locals call snowmobiling “snowmachining” – just a little insider scoop for anyone who doesn’t already know this top secret intel. 😉

We rode outside of Girdwood through Portage Valley to a place that is actually a historical part of the Iditarod trail. This was another one of those *pinch me* I can’t believe it’s real type of moments.

The tour company had a small cabin in the woods where we stopped and they served the group hot cocoa, cider and fireside reindeer dogs. Eating the reindeer dogs felt so “Alaskan!” This was definitely one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had!

I had never been snow-shoeing before, but was determined to give it a shot. So that’s what I did; I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and I rented snow-shoes for one day from the lodge. They provided me with great information to nearby trails close to the resort. So just like that, I bundled up in my warm Alaskan attire and I set out into the wilderness all on my own.

At the end of the day, I realized that I covered a whopping 8 miles in total. And you know what? I loved every single second of it!  I think my favorite part of this athletic adventure was enjoying the sheer beauty of the trail, listening to nature and taking in the quietness around me. I stopped along the way for several breathtaking photo ops and truly took the time to stop and absorb the scenic wilderness that I was nestled in.

One day I even rented a fat-tire bike to further investigate all of the intriguing trails that run for miles upon miles nearby to the resort.

I used Alpine Air Alaska, Inc. for the glacier landing helicopter tour that I booked one day. I cannot say enough how incredible this experience was! Mind-blowing would probably definitely be an understatement. The pilot made me feel safe and comfortable, and provided me with an immense about of knowledge. My mind was eased knowing that I was in such good hands, and I can’t say enough about how much I appreciated the top-notch hospitality and friendly service. Hands down, I would recommend this glacier landing tour and this reputable company to anyone interested in a once-in-a-lifetime Alaskan experience.

The aerial perspectives from the helicopter provided awe-inspiring beauty that looked like something straight out of a National Geographic magazine. Towering snow-capped mountains mixed with piercing blue glaciers was enough eye-candy to last me a lifetime. The pilot even pointed out some moose down below (which was the first time I’ve ever laid eyes on a real live moose!!!) – simply amazing.

My favorite part of this journey was landing on the glacier. While educating the group with an immense amount of knowledge on our surroundings, the pilot let us walk around and explore the glacial land on an up-close-and-personal level.

The photo-ops that followed were (again) like something from my wildest dreams. This was truly a spiritual, out-of-this-world experience that I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to partake in.

On one of my final days in town, I reconnected with an old college girlfriend and we explored with Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This place absolutely exceeded my expectations!

We cruised around and checked out moose, bears, musk ox, deer, caribou and so much more.

The picturesque mountains surrounded us were so captivating! It was almost as if every photo we snapped deserved to be on the cover of a postcard.

We watched as kiddos screamed in delight and ran alongside the local wolf pack.

At one point in time, I’m pretty sure that this adorable moose tried to give me a smooch. SWOON! All of my dreams have now officially come true. This was way too precious. Moose are my favorite wild animals and this rehabilitation facility provides such a great way for visitors to Alaska (such as myself) to experience the fascinating amounts of local wildlife.

Although I dined at a few restaurants during my time in Alaska, the place that stood out the most was Jack Sprat. The chalet style building located near the base of the mountain had a unique, creative menu that made me want to sample everything in sight.

The food was fresh, local and tasted absolutely delicious. Plus the portion sizes were HUGE, which was nice so that I had a little something extra to take back to the hotel to enjoy later in the evening if I got hungry. The service was very lively and accommodating, while the ambiance was idyllic and inviting.

Before I wrapped up my vacation to head back to the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, I had to pose for the obligatory photo with the big stuffed bear in front of the gift shop at Alyeska. Because… when in Alaska! 😉 After such a magical winter experience, I am definitely planning on returning to Alaska in the summer! At the top of my bucket list, I am interested in doing some warm weather hiking, whale watching and biking on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground. If I was able to fall in love with Alaska during the winter, I can only imagine how my adoration of this beautiful state will vastly flourish during the raved-about summer season.

Need travel trips, customized seasonal itineraries or ideas for how to make your trip to The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground positively memorable? Reach out below or feel free to send us a direct message on our website or our Facebook page. Be safe out there adventure hounds, and remember that “it’s not the life in your years – it’s the years in your life.”  Travel, explore, LIVE!

Disclosure: All photos above are copyright of Jillian Hyland with sole usage rights granted to the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council. For photo usage inquiries or content material, please feel free to reach out to Jillian directly by clicking HERE.

Celebrating 12 Incredible Businesses On The Kenai – International Women’s Day

With March 8th, 2017 being International Women’s Day, we thought we’d take a moment to honor some of The Kenai’s most beloved local businesses. Each and every one of these thriving businesses offers a truly unique and special product to the many communities throughout the Kenai Peninsula. Whether you’re looking for a delicious restaurant, a spectacular lodging experience or a once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation planned by experts – you’ll find it in the wonderful list below. Enjoy all that there is to offer on the only place in the Last Frontier known as Alaska’s Playground.

1 – Pizza Boys, Soldotna

Credit: Facebook – Pizza Boys

Located in the heart of Soldotna, Pizza Boys is a local favorite that also attracts visitors from all around the world each busy summer season. Their locally, hand-tossed pizzas will make your mouth water and you won’t be able to resist all the yummy sides. Menu favorites include baked pasta dishes, oven-roasted sandwiches, hoagies, gelato and plenty of beer and wine to go around.

Address: 44686 Sterling Highway, Soldotna, AK 99669.

2 – Grouchy Old Woman B&B, Nikiski

Credit: Facebook – Grouchy Old Woman B&B

Located in North Kenai on the shores of Daniel’s Lake is this charming and utterly idyllic B&B escape. Watch as the moose meander about while your rest peacefully in your own private oasis. You won’t ever forget the warm-hearted hospitality that you’ll receive in this wonderful place.

Address: 48570 North Earl Drive, Kenai, AK 99611.

3 – The Driftwood Inn, Homer

Credit: TripAdvisor

Located in the heart of Old Town Homer is the historic Driftwood Inn. This beachy gem is filled with charm and will make you feel right at home. You’ll soon see why this sweet spot has become a favorite for adventurous families and serious fishermen and women.

Address: 135 West Bunnell Avenue, Homer, AK 99603.

4 – AJ’s Oldtown Steakhouse, Homer

Credit: TripAdvisor

Quite simply put, this little steakhouse is seriously awesome. Nice, big portions and food that is always mouth-watering. The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming, but the live music nights really take the experience up a notch. Sip cocktails or shoot pool in a wood–paneled interior that is perfectly Alaskan.

Address: 120 West Bunnell Avenue, Homer, AK 99603.

5 – Angels Rest on Resurrection Bay, Seward

Credit: Facebook – Angels Rest on Resurrection Bay, LLC

Nestled on the shoes of Resurrection Bay is this magnificent waterfront lodging retreat that many refer to as ‘heaven on earth.’ Enjoy exceptionally clean cabins with a million dollar view that is guaranteed to take your breath away. As you gaze out at the picturesque landscape that awaits you, you’ll experience something that looks like a masterpiece paining. Lynda Ann Martin Paquette is the owner of Angels Rest on Resurrection Bay, and she says that her favorite part about operating a business on the Kenai Peninsula is that she “can live independently in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.” This award-winning property is truly a slice of heaven on earth.

Address: 13730 Beach Drive, Seward, AK 99664.

6 – A Cabin by the Pond, Soldotna

Credit: A Cabin by the Pond – Facebook

A Cabin by the Pond is a majestic little cabin getaway located just steps away from the world-renowned Kenai River. The artesian pond on property attracts moose, birds and a variety of wildlife that truly make the area feel like a wilderness escape. With seven different idyllic cabins to choose from, guests that stay here fall in love with cozy cabins and the warm Alaskan hospitality. Plus, it’s located just a mile away from downtown Soldotna. Cathy Sue Sargenser owns the business with her husband Jim, and she says that her favorite part of owning a leisure business is “That’s easy.  The people!  We’re honored to have the opportunity to interact and get to know people from many different nations and cultures.” She continues on by saying that they’ve entertained guests from all around the world, many of which they remain in touch with long after they return home. Lastly, she says that “It’s fun to wake up every morning knowing it will be a new adventure and opportunity to meet new friends.  I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to do.”

Address: 34480 Airport Heights Street, Soldotna, AK 99669.

7 – Odie’s Deli, Soldotna

Facebook – Odie’s Deli

Odie’s Deli is a truly scrumdiddlyumptious deli restaurant located right in town Soldotna off the Sterling Highway. Local favorites include homemade soups, sandwiches, salads, cookies, and many other mouthwatering baked goods. The soft, flavorful breads are savory soups are made from scratch daily. Plus, each week they have a yummy weekly sandwich special. They even have PubQuiz trivia nights every Wednesday at 6pm and Live Music every Friday at 6pm! Tons of fun, great service, undeniably delicious food.

Address: 44315 Sterling Highway, Soldotna, AK 99669.

8 – Main Street Tap & Grill, Kenai

Credit: Main Street Hotel Tap and Grill

There’s always something going on a Main Street Tap and Grill in Kenai! Locals and visitors alike always look forward to Karaoke Wednesday. Plus, every Friday and Saturday night you can enjoy the awesomeness of a Live Band or DJ! Monday’s and Thursday’s they have World Tavern Poker nights. The grill is filled with seriously delicious menu options and it’s always open late. If you’re a sports fanatic, you can always catch your favorite game on one of the many flat screens.

Address: 10800 Kenai Spur Highway, Kenai, AK 99611.

9 – Mykel’s Restaurant, Soldotna

Credit: Facebook – Mykel’s Restaurant

This insanely delicious restaurant offers some of the best food that you’ll probably ever eat in your entire lifetime. The menu is full of delicious steaks, seafood dishes, appetizers and salads – plus a full bar with lots of local beers on tap. They even have live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Tammy Blank is the Chef and Kitchen Manager at Mykel’s Restaurant, a.k.a. the personally directly responsible for all of the mouth-watering things that you will be scarfing down ASAP. Along with Vanessa Robinson, who is the Restaurant General Manager at Mykel’s Restaurant, both of these incredible women work hard to handle all of the behind-the-scenes action that comes with being one of the best places to eat in all of Alaska. Alice Kerkvliet has been the owner of Mykel’s Restaurant for the last 18 years. She says, “I respect and trust these women and am eternally grateful for their help in promoting the tourism industry in our beautiful community and state of Alaska. They handle all the daily responsibilities, plan for the future and evaluate our progress along the way. We love being part of Alaska’s playground here on the Kenai Peninsula!”

Address: 35041 Kenai Spur Highway, Soldotna, AK 99669.

10 – Everything Bagels, Kenai & Soldotna

Credit: Facebook – Everything Bagels

This is a new name on the Kenai Peninsula, and one that the locals have quickly fallen head-over-heels in love with. Pamela Parker and her husband started Everything Bagels in their personal kitchen in February 2016. Six months after baking our first batch of bagels, they opened there store in Soldotna with their new business partners, Brooke and John Campbell. After just six more months passed, they expanded again to open their second location in Kenai. Grab a fresh baked bagel with hand-made cream cheese and you will fall in love at first bite, we guarantee it!

Soldotna Address: 44539 Sterling Highway.

Kenai Address: 610 Attla Way.

11 – Aksala Alaska, Seward

Credit: visitalaska907.com

The team at Aksala Alaska loves to “live, work, and play Alaska.” They are passionate about the beautiful state of Alaska, and they love to share it with travelers from all around the world! Go to Aksala Alaska for lodging, transportation, plus adventures and tours from Kenai Fjords National Park to Denali National Park. “Go the local way, go AKSALA ALASKA

Address: 209 4th Avenue #1, Seward, AK.

12 – Soldotna Inn, Soldotna

Credit: Facebook – Soldotna Inn

The comfortable and cozy Soldotna Inn is located right near the Y in the heart of Soldotna. These affordable rooms offer a great value close to all of the best fishing holes and hiking trails. Cindy Jackinsky is the Hotel Manager that spends her days working hard to assure that operations are running efficiently while balancing the art of guest service being the utmost priority at all times. CarolAnn Wagner is the Head Housekeeper, a.k.a the behind-the-scenes ninja that keeps the fundamentals flowing like a well-oiled machine. Alice Kerkvliet has been the owner of Soldotna Inn for the last 18 years. She says, “I respect and trust these women and am eternally grateful for their help in promoting the tourism industry in our beautiful community and state of Alaska. They handle all the daily responsibilities, plan for the future and evaluate our progress along the way. We love being part of Alaska’s playground here on the Kenai Peninsula!“

Address: 35041 Kenai Spur Highway, Soldotna.

A huge “thank you” to each and every one of these incredible businesses (and all of their extraordinarily hard-working teams) for all that you do to serve our community. Locals and visitors alike are grateful to have so many top-notch restaurant, lodging and adventure establishments to choose from on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground.

17 Wildly Entertaining Winter Events That Everyone On The Kenai Loves

Credit: Leif Hagen

Credit: Leif Hagen

Even though winter is getting ready to (hopefully) come to a close, we wanted to break into the March Madness spirit with a compilation of exceptional winter events held right here on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground. Because this time of year, we all need a little extra something to help beat those wintertime blues. Without further ado, check out some of the most action-packed winter wonderland activities on the Kenai Peninsula and get ready to fall in love with the snowy season all over again.

Credit: Eric Teela, Flickr

Credit: Eric Teela, Flickr

1 – Seward Polar Bear Jump
The Seward Polar Bear Jump is held each year during the month of January in the beautiful town of Seward on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground. This fun event was started over 30 years ago in 1986. Come out dressed in your best funny costume and plunge into the waters of Resurrection Bay to help raise money for the Alaska Division of the American Cancer Society. For event information, click HERE.

Credit: Seward City News

Credit: Seward City News

2 – Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race
This fun event usually kicks off around the end of January, and is an absolute ball of a time that the whole family will get into. Founded in 1983, the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race (T-200) is a non-profit organization that generally runs every winter on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground. Over the years it has grown its reputation to draw competitive distance mushers from Alaska, the lower 48 states as well as international locations. For more event information and to view the locations along the trail, click HERE.

Credit: Clint Pickarsky

Credit: Clint Pickarsky

3 – Holiday Event at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage
Held in the middle of December of each year, the holiday fun at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is the perfect way to ring in the magic of the season on The Kenai. Visitors can enjoy fun animal programs, crafts, pictures with some of your favorite Christmas characters and so much more. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Facebook

Credit: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Facebook

4 – Frozen RiverFest in Soldotna
Held in February of each year and organized by the Kenai Watershed Forum, this fun winter event is absolutely jam-packed with chilly weather fun. This epic outdoor party offers fun for the whole family including bon fires, live music, food vendors, games and a beer garden. Simply put; this is where you need to be on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: Soldotna Parks & Recreation, Facebook

Credit: Soldotna Parks & Recreation, Facebook

5 – Winter King Salmon Tournament in Homer
Held every year at the end of winter during the month of March, the Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament is the place where angling addicts go to reel in massive king salmon from the saltwater shores in Kachemak Bay. This one-day tournament awards tens of thousands of dollars in prize money to the largest kings caught, with the top earners being in the first, second and third place spot. This event has grown to an enormous size over the years and is one of the most anticipated annual fishing tournaments on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground. In fact, in 2016 over 1500 fisherman and 480 boats competed. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament, Facebook

Credit: Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament, Facebook

6 – Taste of the Kenai in Soldotna
This is a culinary experience that is sure to delight your taste-buds and overwhelm your senses. Enjoy sampling a variety of foods and drinks from local businesses all over the Kenai Peninsula, while taking part in the raffle and silent auction.  KPTMC created this event to highlight the unique culinary experiences on the Kenai Peninsula, and it has grown to be one of the most anticipated culinary events of the year. The Taste of the Kenai is held every year in March and rotates locations in the central Kenai Peninsula area. This year it will be located at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on March 31, 2017. For more event information and to buy your tickets today, click HERE.

Credit: The Kenai, Alaska's Playground, Facebook

Credit: The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground, Facebook

7 – Christmas Comes to Kenai
Kick off your winter season each year with this incredible event hosted by the Kenai Visitor & Cultural Center. The fun starts the day after Thanksgiving in November and includes a wow-worthy parade, fun with Santa and his elves, craft fair, bonfire, yummy goodies and hot cocoa, followed by the grand finale fireworks in the evening. This is the best way to dive right into the magic of the season on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: Peninsula Clarion

Credit: Peninsula Clarion

8 – Tsalteshi Trails Ski-for-Women Event in Soldotna
While the name of this fun Nordic skiing event might make you think that it’s just for women, you’re wrong! Everyone is invited to join in on the awesome outdoor action. Dress up in the wildest outfit you can find and make your way to Tsalteshi Trails on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground to enjoy a skiing event on Super Bowl Sunday. The event generally begins at 11am so you’ll be back home in time for kick-off. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: Tsalteshi Trails, Facebook

Credit: Tsalteshi Trails, Facebook

9 – Movie in the Park at Soldotna Creek Park
It doesn’t get more Alaskan than this on The Kenai! Grab the whole family and head over to Soldotna Creek Park to enjoy a movie outside underneath the dark winter sky. Organized by the Soldotna Parks & Recreation Department, attendees should expect to bundle up and dress for cold weather while they enjoy warm cocoa, hot pizza and unlimited outdoor fun. Each winter there are four outdoor movie events to look forward to, with varying times and dates each year. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: Soldotna Parks & Recreation, Facebook

Credit: Soldotna Parks & Recreation, Facebook

10 – Homer Winter Carnival  
Alaska’s halibut fishing capital of the world is a fun destination to visit, no matter what time of year it is. The fun carnival festivities are held on the second weekend in February of each year and offer the perfect solution for beating those pesky winter blues on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: Active Rain

Credit: Active Rain

11 – Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival in Seward
Seward’s Nordic Ski Club offers the perfect way to get jazzed about winter from the cozy comforts of an indoor theatre. If you live in this region on The Kenai, be sure that you don’t miss this incredible viewing event with a tasty pot-luck to go along with it. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: WinterWildlands.org

Credit: WinterWildlands.org

12 – Torchlight Parade & Fireworks on New Years Eve – Girdwood
We’ll keep this short and sweet; Alyeska Resort is exactly where you need to be on New Years Eve each year. The epic fun that you’ll have both participating in the parade down the slopes and viewing the incredible fireworks show is simply unmatched. While it might not be located directly on The Kenai, we can’t say enough great things about these wonderfully action-packed festivites. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: Alyeska Resort

Credit: Alyeska Resort

Credit: Alyeska Resort

Credit: Alyeska Resort

13 – Peninsula Winter Games in Soldotna
Held in January of each year, kiddos and entire families flock to the festivities at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to burn off all that extra cooped-up winter energy. Hosted by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, there is no denying that this super-fun winter event on The Kenai is one that you will completely regret missing. Enjoy games, contests, tournaments, fireworks and so much more. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: Nikki OConnor

Credit: Nikki OConnor

14 – Holiday Weekend in Seward  
Generally held on the first weekend in December, this fun holiday bash is a blast that Seward residents on The Kenai look forward to each and every year. This old fashioned holiday festival includes local bazaars and craft shows, fun at the Alaska SeaLife Center and a glorious Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in the evening hours. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: Seward.com

Credit: Seward.com

15 – Alaska Railroad Holiday Trains
The Alaska Railroad Holiday Train kicks off in Alaska’s largest city of Anchorage and winds down the stunningly beautiful Turnagain Arm towards The Kenai. These excursions depart on a three separate Saturdays in December and have AM and PM departure times. The experience that you will have is so magical that it will likely become a cherished family tradition. Bring the kids and enjoy sweet treats while visiting with Santa Claus and his happy, friendly elves. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: Alaska Railroad, Facebook

Credit: Alaska Railroad, Facebook

16 – Christmas in the Park in Sodotna
Gather up your friends and family and head to Soldotna Creek Park on a weekend early in December to enjoy the spectacular tree-lighting festival. Enjoy cookies, cocoa, chatting with Santa Claus, a Christmas movie in the park and a spectacular tree-lighting event at the end of the night. This is a sure-fire way to plunge yourself right into the magic of the holiday season on The Kenai. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: Soldotna Creek Park, Facebook

Credit: Soldotna Creek Park, Facebook

17 – Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Fat Bike Event
The first annual Fat Tire Bike Event was held in January of 2017 at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage, and we have a feeling that it’ll be around for quite some time to come. Load up the kiddos or bring a group of your friends with you and enjoy biking around the snowy grounds while observing all the beautiful wildlife. It’s impossible not to have fun at this special place. For more event information, click HERE.

Credit: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Facebook

Credit: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Facebook

Did we miss any of your favorites? If so, let us know and we’ll be happy to add them to the list!

7 Itsy Bitsy Tiny Towns On The Kenai That Are Perfect For A Weekend Escape

green-edventures

PC: Green Edventures

One of the many things that we love about The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground is the diverse terrain. Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula truly is home the most spectacular displays of Mother Nature’s distinguished artwork. While we have an obvious obsession with so of the larger towns on the peninsula like Kenai, Homer, Seward and Soldotna – these tiny gems have a special kind of hold on our hearts.

PC: Courtney Stanley

PC: Courtney Stanley

This is the kind of feeling that is indescribable in ways that you’ll only understand if you actually visit and find out for yourself. If you’ve ever been to any of these tiny treasured towns, we’re sure that you’ll get all sorts of nostalgia thinking about memories from the past. And if you’re looking for the perfect place to have a weekend escape with your friends, family or special someone – you’ll want to check every single one of these places off your bucket list this year.

PC: What Up Swags

PC: What Up Swags

1 – Hope

PC: Travel Alaska

PC: Travel Alaska

There is truly so much to do in this tiny little town located down a long, winding road off the Seward Highway heading south on the Kenai Peninsula. Stay in a quaint lodge or cabin, explore the Seaview Café and surrounding inlet sights in the distance. You won’t be able to ignore the mountains views! Fishing is very popular here in the summertime.

PC: Vacation Rental Pics, Hirshey Cabin

PC: Vacation Rental Pics, Hirshey Cabin

Hiking is another very popular activity in Hope. Hike the 5 mile round-trip Hope Point Trail and see stunning views overlooking the famous Turnagain Arm.

PC: Green Edventures

PC: Green Edventures

If your travels bring you to Hope during the summertime, be sure to check out a thrilling whitewater rafting excursion with Chugach Outdoor Center or NOVA River Runners Inc. Check out the awesome YouTube footage below for a sneak peek into all the adrenaline-packed fun you’ll be in for.

2 – Ninilchik

PC: Flickr - Cecil Sanders

PC: Flickr – Cecil Sanders

In this tiny town with a population of around 850 residents, you might be surprised to learn that that is so much to do here. Fishing, hiking, beach combing, atv riding and so much more.

PC: Sarah Elzas - Flickr

PC: Sarah Elzas – Flickr

Head up to the Caribou Hills to ride the ATVs or enjoy beach combing with mind-blowing mountain views overlooking the inlet.

PC: Dan Callahan, Flickr

PC: Dan Callahan, Flickr

It’s impossible to deny one of Ninilchik’s most popular summertime attractions; saltwater fishing! Soak in the most epic mountain views while reeling in massive halibut and slippery salmon. If you aren’t afraid of having a whole lotta’ fun, this is one incredible activity that is calling your name loud and clear!

3 – Clam Gulch

PC: Alaska.org

PC: Alaska.org

This tiny little gem with less than 200 residents is a great place to go escape the crowds and soak up some peaceful tranquility.

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Spend the weekend playing at the beach, hiking or riding ATVs then prepare for a life-changing sunset view at the end of the day.

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Sit back and soak in the scenic beauty of waves crashing against the shore in Clam Gulch by peeping the YouTube video below. If peace and relaxation is what you’re after, this town is meant for you!

4 – Cooper Landing

PC: Where To Willie

PC: Where To Willie

The charming mountain town with some of the bluest water that you’ll ever see. Enjoy fascinating snow-capped peaks and the glacial fed waters of Kenai Lake and the Kenai River.

PC: Ian Collins, Flickr

PC: Ian Collins, Flickr

While the renowned fisheries are incredibly noteworthy within themselves, we also love the glorious hiking opportunities in Cooper Landing. There are also lots of incredible eco-tours in the area such as rafting, horseback riding, kayaking and paddle boarding.

PC: Dan Logan, Flickr

PC: Dan Logan, Flickr

As if you aren’t already convinced that a weekend escape to Cooper Landing is an incredibly good idea, just do yourself a favor and watch the quick six minute video below. The fascinating drone footage will make your heart pound right out of your chest. There really is nothing more glorious than The Kenai!

5 – Moose Pass

PC: Jimmy Emerson, DVM

PC: Jimmy Emerson, DVM

The little drive-by town on the way to Seward, where if you blink – you’ll miss it. Be sure to stop by Tern Lake at the Sterling Highway junction to soak in one of the most picturesque views in all of the state.

PC: Maria Fletcher Stark

PC: Maria Fletcher Stark

Spend the day checking out the gorgeous Trail Lake or head into the backcountry for a backpacking trek to Crescent Lake.

PC: Kevan Dee, Flickr

PC: Kevan Dee, Flickr

Check out the YouTube video below and enjoy seeing the most spectacular aerial footage of Moose Pass from a floatplane. It really is a hidden gem of a town just nestled perfectly in the middle of nowhere.

6 – Nikiski

PC: Dan Logan, Flickr

PC: Dan Logan, Flickr

This community out north on the Kenai Spur Highway is a lot more than just an oil & gas town. For starters, the voluptuous volcanic views are guaranteed to take your breath away.

PC: Travis, Flickr

PC: Travis, Flickr

Where the gravel road ends, the epic trail riding begins. This is a locals spot that offers non-stop muddy fun from dusk until dawn. Head to Captain Cook State Recreational Area for some hiking, beach combing, horseback riding or a long walk on the beach with your dogs.

PC: Amy Meredith, Flickr

PC: Amy Meredith, Flickr

Here’s the thing; Nikiski is heavily underrated. When you head all the way out that north road, you literally can escape into a realm of total peace and quiet. We happen to love Captain Cook State Recreation Area, partially because nothing beats the sunset views at the locale. Just check out the great YouTube video below and see for yourself.

7 – Seldovia

PC: John M, Flickr

PC: John M, Flickr

This idyllic little coastal town is worth the ‘off the beaten path’ trip in. Head down to Homer and hop on a boat or the ferry and make your way over the Seldovia, population 280.

PC: Andrea Pokrzywinski

PC: Andrea Pokrzywinski

Popular activities in town include beachcombing, hiking and some of the most incredible saltwater fishing on the Kenai Peninsula. Seldovia also has incredibly charming lodging options and some delicious eateries as well.

PC: Andrea Pokrzywinski

PC: Andrea Pokrzywinski

The utterly phenomenal YouTube video below from Seldovia Native Association Inc. will make you fall madly in love with Seldovia, if you aren’t already head over heels. Give it a quick peep and get ready to plan your 2017 vacation getaway to this coastal paradise.

That’s all for now, friends! Get out and explore all these sweet hidden gems that can only be found right here on the Kenai Peninsula.

30 Outdoorsy Alaskan Instagram Accounts That Everyone On The Kenai Should Follow ASAP

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Now that we are gliding along smoothly into the New Year, we wanted to take a moment to stop, reflect and share. Since we live in the most beautiful place in the world (aka – The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground), sometimes it’s easy for us to get wrapped up in our own little slice of paradise. But what we’ve noticed along the way is that our fellow Alaskan friends, colleagues and adventure-lovers have some of the best kept secrets in the great 49th state. So what’s all the hush-hush about? These 30 Instagram accounts are filled with so much phenomenal eye-candy that you won’t be able to contain your love affair with the Last Frontier. Fuel your wanderlust and fall head over heels in love with Alaska (again, and again, and again) after you follow each and every one of these insanely awesome pages. No matter where your travels take you this year, we know that you won’t regret putting The Kenai at the top of your bucket list.

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1 – @JohnHallsAlaska. Check out all the behind the scenes action of these fully guided small group tours. See the best of what Alaska has to offer!

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2 – @TravelAlaska. The State of Alaska Tourism Office shares incredible attractions all across the Last Frontier. You won’t be able to contain your excitement, trust us.

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3 – @TheAlaskaLife. If there was ever a doubt in your mind that living in Alaska was the definition of ‘living the dream’ – this is all the proof in the puddin’ that you need. Absolutely brilliant photography and incredible stories from locals across the Last Frontier will leave you in a constant state of awe.

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4 – @AlaskaTravel. Alaska Travel at Alaska.org will show you sides to Alaska that you only thought existed in your wildest dreams. Be sure to check out the Alaska map and start making all of your Alaska dreams come true.

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5 – @CabinLife_Alaska. Because sometimes it’s just good for the heart to follow the solace perspective of off-the-grid living in interior Alaska. Simply put, these snaps are food for the soul.

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6 – @AlaskaUltimateSafaris. Alaska bear watching and glacier viewing is just so much cooler when you experience it from the comforts of a helicopter. This unforgettable excursion is unlike anything else in the world. See a side to the Kenai Peninsula like never before.

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7 – @VisitSoldotna. Catch the latest on what life is like inside Alaska’s Kenai River City by following this great page today. The beautiful photography will make you fall in love with all four seasons on a whole new level.

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8 – @KenaiFjordsNPS. Follow all the stunning latest on the renowned Harding Icefield and get up close and personal with some of the most jaw-dropping displays of raw nature and marine wildlife in the salty shores of Resurrection Bay.

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9 – @VisitHomer. Alaska’s halibut fishing capital of the world is home to so many renowned treasures. Visit the Homer Spit, go fishing in Kachemak Bay or spend the afternoon chasing down phenomenal photography opportunities. Just about every nook and cranny of this town will delight your heart with joy.

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10 – @AkWildlife. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage is such a prized gem that locals adore and visitors are continuously amazed by. Follow them today and keep up to date on what all the cutest rehabilitation animals are doing to keep strong and happy in the Last Frontier.

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11 – @ResortAlyeska. Head to the most beloved ski town in the world where you’ll find the incredible Alyeska Resort. This resort offers endless powder play dates in the wintertime as well as some of the most epic hiking and backpacking destinations during the summertime. Hop on a trail or shred the pow, but if you’re stuck at home – follow all the magic on Insta.

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12 – @AlaskaWildland. Uniquely, responsibly and exclusively Alaskan adventures dating all the way back to 1977. For top notch tours, lodging and backcountry adventures in the Last Frontier – you need to follow these fine folks ASAP.

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13 – @JimmieJackFishing. This awesome Alaska fishing lodge is located right here on the Kenai Peninsula. Stay up to speed with what’s being caught and be sure to plan your next halibut, salmon or multi-species fishing trip today.

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14 – @26glaciers. This luxury glacier viewing tour out of Prince William Sound in Whittier was voted best in the state by locals, and after you see these jaw-dropping photos you’ll completely understand why. This is a bucket list must!

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15 – @AlaskaRailroad. The most beautiful train rides in the world lead you right to the Kenai Peninsula, you just have to hop on and experience the magic for yourself. This Insta page will make you seriously need to start planning your Alaskan adventures ASAP.

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16 – @AlaskaCollection. Formerly Alaska Denali Travel, the Alaska Collection offers the best of the best in Alaska vacation planning options. From the Kenai Peninsula, Katmai, Lake Clark, Seward, Talkeetna, up into Denali and so much more. Just start exploring and you’re sure to stumble upon something that lights a fire in your adventurous spirit.

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17 – @AlaskaBearAdventures. If adorable bear cubs roaming in the raw wilderness makes your heart absolutely explode with happiness, this page (and these tours) is exactly what you need. Head down to Homer this summer to experience the fun in person!

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18 – @TravelJuneauAK. If you haven’t noticed already, our love for the Last Frontier runs deep. So deep that our neighbors in the Southeast community of Juneau have us lusting over their gorgeous outdoor wonderland. From the sights of Mendenhall Glaciers to the lush rainforest beauty inside the Tongass National Park – we can’t get enough!

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19 – @KenaiRiversideFishing. There is just nothing like them summer nights spent out on the banks of the Kenai River fishing beneath the midnight sun. Mountains, river, trout, salmon – oh my! This guiding diary makes us get a major case of heart-eyes!

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20 – @AlaskaMarineHighway. Visiting Alaska via the picturesque marine highway is an experience unlike any other in the world. View majestic mountains towering above you out of the ocean while the occasional breaching whale pops up to greet you on the bow. Mind-blowing? You better freakin’ believe it. Only in Alaska baby!

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21 – @OrcaIslandCabins. Head to Seward and make your way out to the idyllic shores of Humpy Cove where you’ll find Orca Island Cabins. The yurt style lodging offers the most perfect ‘glamping’ experience while the eco-activities available at your disposal will charm the socks right off of you. Go whale watching via stand-up paddleboard or kayak around the bay while birding.

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22 – @SeldoviaBayFerry. Life beyond the Homer Spit in the remote coastal town is just about as scenic as can be. Literally just following the Insta page will completely relax you, but we highly encourage you to take a trip on the ferry this summer and reward yourself with the ultimate Kenai Peninsula getaway.

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23 – @great_alaska_adventures. Livin’ the dream never felt so good. Follow the ultimate outdoorsy adventures with Great Alaska team and find yourself flocking to The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground for fishing and travel fun.

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24 – @AlaskaSealifeCenter. Scientific knowledge mixed with stunning photographs helps to promote the understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems. This is not only a great (indoor) place to take the family to enjoy during the chilly winter months, but it’s also an absolutely blast any other time of year as well. Caution: cuteness overload will occur in heavy doses.

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25 – @PrincessAlaskaLodges. Plan on taking a cruise up to Alaska? If so, you better start following this Insta page like right this very second. Extend your time in the Last Frontier with a land excursion package that will lead you to the most stunning Alaskan lodges in the 49th state. Trust us, the photos will do something crazy to your adventurous heart.

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26 – @DiscoverValdez. Home to the snowiest area in the entire state and the most awe-inspiring views of Mother Nature. This might be one of the most wow-worthy adventure capitals in the entire state. A huge shout-out to our neighbors for continuing to share the renowned beauty of Alaska with all of us!

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27 – @TurningHeadsKennel. We have a secret to share that we can no longer keep quiet about. We are freakin’ crazy-obsessed with dog mushing. It’s just the most incredible sport of pure resilience, compassion and power. To overcome such tremendous boundaries to then come together as a team, (wo)man and dog – there is nothing more admirable. This Insta account just lights a special spark in our hearts. You’ll see why after just one glance.

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28 – @StillPointLodge. A sweet, sweet island escape that you’ve been dreaming about all your life. THAT, my friends – is exactly what you’ll find here. The towering fjords, majestic mountains and enchanting views of Kachemak Bay will utterly blow you away.

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29 – @MillersLandingEscape. The idyllic town of Seward will lead you to a peaceful slice of paradise known as Lowell Point. The large beach area with towering mountains in the distance is like a scene straight out of a dream. Millers Landing also just so happens to be your one-stop option for lodging and recreational activities.

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30 – @InletCharters. Inlet Charters Across Alaska out of Homer is who you need to be with when you want to have a blast and catch a ton of fish. Reel in halibut or salmon, or spend the afternoon on a renowned wildlife viewing tour. Whatever you do, don’t forget to follow this crew on Insta and book a trip for the 2017 season before it’s too late!

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Safe travels to all of our dear friends out there and remember that you can always reach out to us at any time if you need help planning your dream Kenai Peninsula vacation.